Friday 17 August 2012

#FridayFlash - The Spin Doctor

I don't normally write continuation of flash stories as I prefer the tales to be 'self-contained', but this is a companion piece to last week's Third in the Polls.

* * *

Footsteps echoed along the wood-panelled corridor. Running the length of the east wing, the corridor's walls groaned beneath the weight of valuable paintings and tapestries. Raymond paid them no attention as he strode past. He'd spent years studying their symbolism and metaphors as a younger man - they'd long since ceased to hold any fascination for him.

"Sir? Sir, where are we going?"

The young man at Raymond's side stared at the canvases as he passed, struggling to appreciate them in a single glance. He made a mental note to come back and study them when Raymond finally allowed him to leave.

"We're going to get some help for our polling problem," replied Raymond.

Dai stifled a groan. Mariette warned him that Raymond wouldn't take the news well. He'd never liked losing, but dropping to third in the polls was even more of an insult. Still, Dai hadn't anticipated being dragged into Raymond's personal crusade.


"We're going to see the Spin Doctor."

Dai shuddered. Everyone in admin told their own horror stories about the Spin Doctor, a somewhat shadowy figure within the Organisation.

"Can he help?"

"She. And if she can't, then no one can."

The corridor opened into the central atrium of the building, a huge square space surrounded by a vast staircase and galleries on each floor. A glass skylight served as the ceiling, and Dai watched the reflection of the clouds outside in the polished marble floor.

"Come on, Dai. Up."

Raymond took the stairs two at a time, and Dai ran to keep up. They passed others on the way upstairs, each of whom gave Dai a quizzical look, and Raymond a wide berth. Dai shrugged at them all.

The staircase led up to the third floor. Raymond strode away down the corridor, pausing at a doorway beside a narrow window. He opened the door and disappeared up a steep flight of wooden steps into the gloom above. Dai bit his lip - he'd give anything not to go any further.

"Come on, Dai. I haven't got all day."

Raymond's baritone floated down the stairs, and Dai forced himself up the steps into the daytime murk of the attics. The roof banked in a steep line, forcing Dai to walk bent over as he followed Raymond between the low rafters. A dull grey light infused everything with a sickly glow. Something sticky brushed his face, and Dai wiped away a length of what looked like white silk.

“Greetings, Raymond. This is quite a surprise.”

A rasping voice floated from the shadows in the corner of the attic. Dai winced – it sounded like the syllables were drawn across sandpaper. His eyes widened as a spider scuttled forward into the cold light – a spider so large it dwarfed Raymond’s tall frame.

“We need your help,” said Raymond. He looked up at the spider, his face reflected millions of times in the spider’s black eyes.

“So I hear. Third in the polls, are you?” The spider rubbed her front two legs together. Dai took two quiet steps backwards.

“Yes. I don’t know why, but the opposition just seem to be more attractive to the public.”

“I know why. It’s your PR department. Why don’t you just let me handle it?”

“I should have done. I will do. But will you help us right now?”

“I will. But you know what I need.”

Raymond turned to Dai and beckoned him forward. The hair on the back of Dai’s neck stood up and he shook his head.

“The youngster is an arachnophobe,” said the spider.

“Dai, don’t be a fool. We all need to contribute to the cause. Besides, we don’t need much, just a drop of your blood.”

Raymond grabbed Dai’s arm and pulled him forward. Dai struggled, but the spider knocked his legs out from under him. Dai landed on the floor with a thump, and the spider pinned him down with her front legs. Raymond produced a penknife from his pocket and ran its blade across Dai’s thumb. Dai yelped.

“Sssh, Dai. The Spin Doctor needs your blood to transfer into the pen of a writer. The essence of a werewolf is the surest way to get our kind back into fiction. All it takes is one successful book, and more will follow – and our position in the hierarchy will improve,” said Raymond. He squeezed the cut, and caught the dripping blood in a glass jar.

The spider released Dai when the jar was full. Raymond put away the penknife and helped Dai to his feet. Dai stuck his thumb into his mouth to suck the cut, hoping his preternatural healing would kick in soon. His legs trembled but all things considered, that wasn’t so bad.

“Very good, thank you. I will let you know when the transfer has been made,” said the spider.

Raymond nodded and headed towards the stairs. Dai turned to follow, but Raymond shook his head.

“No, Dai. You must stay here.”


“The Spin Doctor might need more blood.”

“You said you’d only need a drop?”

“You can never predict how these things will go,” said the spider.

Raymond disappeared down the staircase. Dai heard the door close downstairs, and the spider scuttled away into the darkness.

Dai sat down and pressed his back against the wall. All he could do was hope that his blood was enough to inspire the next great werewolf story...and buy his freedom.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

[Guest Post] Carrie Clevenger on Blog Serials

At the start of August, you might have seen me madly tweeting about the fact I finally had a paperback copy of Crooked Fang by my very good friend Carrie Clevenger. Now, I'm not one for vampires, but I've been rather keen on Carrie's take since I first read the serial she ran on her blog. Times change and Xan Marcelles has taken his turn in the spotlight, and that very awesome serial is now a book. A proper, honest-to-God book I can (and do) wave in people's faces. Carrie's doing a blog tour to promote it, and here she is, talking about how to turn a blog serial into a book.

Over to you Carrie!

* * *

Xan Marcelles in Crooked Fang began life as a concept that’d occurred to me years before in some pitiful ninety-page story I wrote in a frenzy to purge my grief. I put Xan aside at that time because I wrote a different sort of vampire, much closer to Anne Rice’s style. Things happened. Time passed. Xan played a secondary character to the ancient vampire I was so enamored with, yet his own story scratched at the base of my brain.

I started a blog (that no longer exists) for fun in order to capture some of his story in 2008. I wrote posts whenever I felt like it and they were somewhat dark; how he lived, died, and came back as a vampire. Then I started a new blog called simply Crooked Fang. Crooked Fang is the name of Xan Marcelles’ band and it seemed catchy enough, very rock star in nature. In that blog, I wrote Xan’s life at a tavern he settled at, called Pale Rider, after leaving the vampire lifestyle behind. About the same time, I had him on Twitter along with my own account and discovered the power of social networking. I still only posted whenever a story would occur to me, but I started to get readers. They followed the blog and commented on each post and encouraged me. Xan’s silly adventures seemed to draw in people from all sorts of backgrounds due to his ordinary dude character and I realized that I had something there that was more than just screwing around. He was finally telling the story trapped in those horrid ninety pages I wrote in 2001.

I started out with eight readers. Thirty followers on Twitter for him. Their encouragement compelled me to become more regular with the posts, upping them to once every two weeks, then finally one a week. When #TuesdaySerial came about on Twitter, I listed his posts every week. My readership grew slowly but steadily. I was asked, “When’s the novel coming out?” Novel? I thought. I can’t write a novel. That’s a whole lot of words. I don’t have time to write ninety-thousand words besides what would I write about? Crooked Fang was just for fun; it was a release from everyday life. I liked to entertain and Xan was easy to love.

At second glance, I was kind of writing a novel somewhat, because when I put all the blog posts together, it equaled about fifty-three thousand words. Wow, I thought. Well, if I could do that, surely I could up it to sixty-thousand? I had it in my mind to self-publish it and was rather attached to the idea until I ran across someone on a doom metal band’s forum named Nerine Dorman.

Nerine and I hit it off almost immediately, due to our shared passion for the music of Type O Negative. She also happened to be an editor for a publishing company, Lyrical Press. Her curiosity was piqued when I mentioned Crooked Fang. Somehow, I ended up showing her the story and she made editing suggestions. Eventually she managed to convince me to try to publish through a company rather than on my own.

But here’s what you came for: How a serial on a blog is turned into a novel. Short answer is: Lots and lots of work. The long answer is the same but by layering: Adding deeper description, character insight, additional scenes, time consistency (mine was completely hosed at first) and motivation for each and every movement in the story. Eight versions of Crooked Fang reside on my hard drive because of the revision and editing process. Each time, I added a layer, trimmed a scene that didn’t fit, or changed a character and learned in general how to pace the story.

It’s a hands-on training sort of position when you take a rough draft and polish it to a finished novel and you gain a deep respect for those who’ve gone before you, especially for the more-epic-style writers. It is a huge investment perhaps not financially, but certainly lifestyle and time-wise.

I was stumped when it came time to end the novel. How to close off the plot in Crooked Fang after I resolved the main obstacle without fully resolving everything about Xan? Because when you resolve all of the character’s issues, the story is over. I left off and sent the story to Nerine, explaining that I still hadn’t thought of a proper ending. Turns out, the ending I just left off on was the final result.

Because a story never ends really, just like real life. I suppose one day Xan can ride off on some dark highway for the last time but for now, he’s not done. Neither am I. So how does Crooked Fang end? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Sometimes a vampire's past can bite him in the ass.

Xan Marcelles--bassist for Crooked Fang, vampire and full-time asshole, is content with his quiet existence in the backwoods of Pinecliffe, Colorado. But life at the Pale Rider tavern is set to become a little more complicated when he gets entangled with a feisty, blue-haired damsel and her abusive soon-to-be ex boyfriend.

To add to his woes, he's gone from hunter to hunted, and his past returns to haunt him when a phone call draws him back to New Mexico. With the help of friends from his living past, he must get to the bottom of a murder, and figure out where he stands with his lover and his band, all while keeping one step ahead of his enemies. Hiding won't be easy for him, especially with a mysterious woman dogging him every step of the way.

WARNING: Cussing, smoking, drinking and hot sex.

Main site: and sales link is here.

Lyrical Press, ebook format (all formats) to be published August 20.

Katarr Kanticles also, print version released August 1.

Also on Goodreads and Facebook.

Carrie Clevenger landed in the urban fantasy genre when she couldn't decide between horror and humor. When not writing she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with musicians, attending local venues, catching her favorite bands on tour, and obsessing over The Next Big Album release. Main influences include Maynard James Keenan, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and the late Peter Steele. Follow Carrie on Twitter as @CarrieClevenger.

Monday 13 August 2012

Photo Prompt 98

New prompt available!

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The 98th prompt is Sunset.

Sunset over the Grand Canal

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!